Derek Jarman's, 1987 film, The Last of England, is a portrayal of a dismantling of England, mainly caused by Thatcherism. He felt that government policy – which accelerated deindustrialisation – quashed Britain’s quintessential treasures. If he thought he was right in the 1980s, he would be happy to hear that in Cromford Leather’s case, he is wrong. Little did he know that at that time, in a small workshop on Division Street in the industrial city of Sheffield, there was a seventeen-year-old apprentice called Pauline Harris making small bags who would go on to become the director of a company, that is a reverential and perpetual embodiment of British craft – and a rare example of continued leather making excellence in England.
Originally called The General Leather Company, it was founded in 1971 by Savile Row-trained Alan Sprooles and Peter Goodall. Even in the beginning, they were a pillar of support to domestic manufacturing and commerce. Every week they would explore London’s Leather Lane in pursuit of the best possible skins. Renamed The Cromford Leather Company in recognition of the town of Cromford, Derbyshire, the ‘birthplace’ of the Industrial Revolution, it seems pertinent that the charismatic Pauline Harris, from neighbouring Yorkshire, is commander-in-chief. She is also arguably the most talented leather jacket tailor in London. It wasn’t always destined this way. Despite learning from self-taught female designers in Sheffield in the 1980s, it wasn’t until around seven years later, that she walked past a leather goods manufacture in New Zealand. She knocked on the door, and was greeted by Ruby – a 6ft Maori transsexual who ran the workroom. Always walking around with a cigarette holder in hand wearing slippers, Ruby imparted vital technical expertise to Pauline, whilst becoming great friends. Back in London, Pauline started at the firm when it was called The General Leather Company; quickly being given the responsibility to alter the Queen’s red suede coat which had been made by the firm.